SMC doubles budget for Pasig River rehab

Catherine Talavera - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC) is doubling its budget for the clean up and rehabilitation of the Pasig River to P2 billion.

In a statement, SMC said it officially launched the five-year project in partnership with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), other national government agencies and Metro Manila mayors.

“We hope that with the resources and technical know-how that we are bringing into the effort today – along with the continued support of our national government agencies and local government units – we can all make a bigger difference,” SMC president Ramon Ang said.

“There have been many cleanup efforts in the past, and government has successfully implemented a number of programs these past few years.But decades of pollution and compounding problems that have rendered the river biologically dead since the 1990s are too significant and complex to overcome – even for the best-intentioned advocates and organizations,”he said.

Ang cited a study published by OurWorldinData.org –  a collaboration between the University of Oxford and UK-based non-profit, Global Change Data Lab –  last May which showed that the Pasig River has emerged as the top plastics polluter of oceans in the world.

Joining the Pasig River in the top 10 list of rivers in the world that have the highest share of plastics emitted are six other rivers in the Philippines: the Tullahan River, Meycauayan River, Pampanga River,Libmanan River,  Rio Grande de Mindanao and Agno River.

“Solid waste in our rivers is a serious issue, not only because it endangers our oceans, marine life, and traditional fishing grounds – which are a source of food and livelihood for our countrymen – but also because they worsen our flooding situation.

“Silt and accumulated garbage have made the Pasig River shallow and restrict the flow of water, worsening the flooding situation in Manila, Mandaluyong, Makati and Pasig. Our goal is to remove years-worth of wastes and increase Pasig River’s carrying capacity to divert floodwaters to Manila Bay and make it more conducive to marine life over the coming years,” Ang said.

Under the clean up project,SMC is targeting to remove some 50,000 metric tons (MT) of waste from the Pasig River per month, or 600,000 MT of waste per year, using advanced and specialized equipment, which the company has already acquired.

SMC said a bathymetric survey or depth survey used to determine the topography and characteristics underwater of the Pasig River showed that some parts of the river have become shallower and measure only one to two meters in depth while some parts will have to be widened.

“We are coordinating with the DPWH to develop a dredging plan that will establish the target depth that will best handle heavy rainfall during extreme weather and minimize flooding,” Ang said.

Aside from the Tullahan and Pasig River cleanups, SMC is also looking to undertake a river channel improvement program for tributaries belonging to Marilao-Meycauayan-Obando River System (MMORS) as part of of its flood mitigation component to benefit Bulacan province, future site of the New Manila International Airport (NMIA).

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